See also: The 3 Types of Terror

As a horror writer, one of the biggest challenges I face is building terror in a story. As Stephen King said on Facebook not too long ago, terror is “when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

Creepy! Anyway, I’ve been thinking of different ways authors utilize terror in their stories, how they manage to insinuate that terror element into their work and look for patterns. Based on those observations, I think I’ve come up with some answers, and I’ve put those answers into two models for using terror, which I will talk about below.

The first model of using terror is called the Uphill Model. In this version, you slow ramp up the strangeness and terrifying aspects of the story, starting with small, subtle cues but gradually introducing more overt signals until the wrongness of the situation is so obvious that at this point you can introduce the horror aspect (aka the vampire or the demon or whatever’s meant to creep us out in the story) to the sound of terrified squeals and screams (especially if you’re in a movie theater). A good example of this model would be Samson Weiss’s Curse, one of the short stories from The Quiet Game. The story starts out with small things that are out of the ordinary (a stalker at a rally, maybe some trouble sleeping, a voice or two), but things escalate and become more obvious as the story goes on until the villain of the piece is revealed, in all his horrifying grandeur. I also used the Uphill Model in The Loneliest Roads, one of my more recent short stories, which is currently going through the editing process and may be submitted to magazines soon. This is a good method to use for short stories, especially since it requires a steady but quick escalation in order to keep the reader interested and scared. However, the method requires precision in measuring out how much terror you should use and in what ways. Too much or too little terror used too soon or too late will work against the story, and actually turn readers away. Writers need to be cognizant of this when using this model.

Bad movie. Great example.

The second model is called (quite appropriately) The Seismograph Model, because there are moments where there is intense moments of terror followed by lulls or smaller spikes of terrifying elements. A wonderful example of this is Stephen King’s IT, where there are moments where the strangeness of the situation is very high followed by moments where the amount of terror is low or non-existent. Usually during the spikes of terror there is also a lot of accompanying horror and Gross-out, the other two types of terror. During the lulls, authors generally use this time to work on character development and to expand on the situation the characters find themselves in, as well as to maybe show the characters in more casual settings or enjoying life without threat of something evil. This model is helpful for novels, especially longer ones where there are plenty of run-ins with the great evil of the story before the actual climax takes place and it requires a bit less precision than the Uphill Model, though it does require some skill to do it right.

Let me just say that these models are not perfect and that they don’t apply to every horror story out there. They are simply frameworks to examine a story and maybe to help shape your stories while you are writing them. There may be other models out there that I’m unaware of and have yet to discover, and if there are, I doubt any story out there fits any of these models perfectly. Like I said, the models are tools of examination and reference more than actual models to be followed.

Anyway, I hope as time goes on and I work on new short stories, I hope to be able to use both models to some degree and to use them effectively in my stories. I think that if I can, I might be able to write better stories and further my career as an author. That’s the hope, anyway.

Do you use any models when writing? If so, what?

Oh, and while I have your attention, I have some announcements to make. First, I’ve included links to the book trailers of my various books on the pages above. So if you want to see the book trailer for a novel or a collection of short stories, all you have to do is visit the appropriate page and click on the link. Makes more sense than having to scour YouTube or this blog for the correct video or post, right?

Second, I’d like to announce that I’m starting work on a new collection of short stories. By that, I mean I merely plan to write a new collection that includes some old, unreleased work and some new work that I’ve been looking forward to writing. I’m not sure when this collection will be ready, when it’ll be released, or what I’ll call it, but when I do get around to all that, everyone here will be the first to know.

And finally, I’ve created a new page on this blog, entitled Interviews. The page contains both interviews with other authors and interviews with characters from my novels. It doesn’t have much on it yet, but I plan to add more interviews for both authors and characters as time goes on. I’m especially looking forward to adding more interviews with other authors: those are a chance to help out friends with new books coming out, meet new authors and get a chance to know them, and to possibly expand the number of people reading my work. We’ll see what happens, but I hope only for good things.

Well, that’s all for now. Tonight’s Buckeyethon, so I’ll be offline until I get home after a 12-hour dance marathon, followed by a 6-12 hour nap to catch up on my sleep. See you guys Saturday evening, when I write a post about how awesome Buckeyethon was and what happened while I was at it. Happy Valentine’s Day, Followers of Fear.

  1. Perfect BloggersTech says:

    Reblogged this on Blog of an e-marketer by Main Uddin.

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